The magic of maps


At this year’s November NAWE conference in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon I was lucky enough to take part in a workshop run by writer Jennie Bailey entitled ‘Everyday Magic and Mythical Maps’. We started the workshop by making up spells based on everyday items. I chose a pen (predictably, perhaps) and most of the participants picked ordinary household items like mugs or buckets… all except one who, enchantingly, chose an oar. Here’s my spell:

Pen for writing
Pen for art
Pen for magic
Make it smart!

Next, giving us each a ‘real’ map of the town to play with, Jennie encouraged us to look afresh at the landscape’s features, the roads and buildings and bridges, and create our own ‘mythical’ version, thinking about smells and sounds as well as sights. There were no rules, Jennie explained: our only task was to go right ahead and create a new version of a very old place, just for our selves.

Soon, I’d made up new names for towers, bridges and streets. I turned an innocuous-looking field into a swamp and decided who (or what) might live there. For me, the boundaries offered an especially rich source of inspiration and I soon found I’d conjured up two entire communities, the Stone People and the Swamp People. The A3400 became a vast barrier between them called The High Divide,  with three ways through: the First Door, the Last Door and Terror’s Tunnel. The gentle River Avon took on a more sinister feel, renamed The Washaway. In just a few minutes, a whole new world started to unfold before me.

A space to play – even if just for ten or twenty minutes – is, I discovered, hugely valuable if you’re a writer who is creating a fictional setting, or space, for a story.

If you’d like to find out more about Jennie and her work, you can follow her on Twitter @wildwrites or take a look at